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Transverse Cervical Artery

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The transverse cervical artery (TCA) is a branch of the thyrocervical trunk, which itself is a branch of the first part of the subclavian artery. These arteries are part of the larger arterial network that supplies blood to the head, neck, and upper limbs.

Understanding the anatomy and function of arteries like the TCA is vital, as it helps in diagnosing and treating various medical conditions and performing surgical interventions in the head and neck region.

What Is the Transverse Cervical Artery?

The TCA typically arises from the thyrocervical trunk but can also originate directly from the subclavian artery in some cases. Below is a brief description of its origins, locations, and variations in the human body.

Anatomical Framework

The origins and the branches of the TCA are as follows:

  • Superficial cervical artery: The TCA is a significant branch originating from the thyrocervical trunk, itself a branch of the subclavian artery. Within the anatomical framework of the neck, it courses horizontally beneath the sternocleidomastoid muscle. Its primary function is to supply blood to various structures in the neck and shoulder region.
  • Dorsal scapular artery: While the TCA branches from the thyrocervical trunk, it is important to note that the thyrocervical trunk also gives rise to other branches, such as the dorsal scapular artery. The dorsal scapular artery contributes to the vascularization of the back, supplying blood to the rhomboid muscles and levator scapulae.


The TCA is located deep within the neck, traversing horizontally beneath the sternocleidomastoid muscle. Its course is pivotal in providing blood supply to specific muscles and tissues in the cervical and shoulder regions.

Structure Variations

Variations in the origin or branching pattern of the TCA may occur. While it typically arises from the thyrocervical trunk, variations might include direct origin from the subclavian artery.

Understanding these structural variations is crucial, especially during surgical procedures and interventions in the neck and shoulder areas. Accurate knowledge of these anatomical details is vital to ensure precision in diagnoses and treatments.

 Its Functions

The TCA performs the following functions:

  • Trapezius muscle: The TCA plays a significant role in supplying blood to the trapezius muscle, a large triangular muscle in the upper back and neck. The trapezius muscle is crucial for various movements of the head, neck, and shoulders, including the elevation, retraction, and rotation of the scapula. Adequate blood supply from the TCA is essential for the nourishment and proper function of the trapezius muscle.
  • Superficial branch: One of the primary functions of the TCA is to give rise to a superficial branch. This branch courses through the superficial layers of the neck, contributing to the vascularization of the skin, subcutaneous tissues, and muscles in the region. The superficial branch ensures proper blood supply to the external structures in the neck and upper shoulder, playing a role in maintaining tissue health and supporting various physiological processes.
  • Deep branch: In addition to supplying the superficial structures, the TCA also gives off a deep branch. This deep branch penetrates deeper into the tissues, providing vascular support to structures beneath the surface. 

    This includes deeper layers of muscles, possibly contributing to the vascularization of structures such as ligaments and other tissues. The deep branch is crucial for ensuring comprehensive blood supply to both superficial and deep anatomical elements in the neck and upper shoulder region.

 What Happens if It Is Damaged?

Damage to the TCA can have various consequences, potentially leading to several symptoms and complications:

  • Bleeding: The most immediate and noticeable consequence of TCA damage is bleeding. The artery’s disruption can result in uncontrolled blood loss, leading to external bleeding in the neck region.
  • Swelling of the neck: Damage to the TCA may cause localized swelling in the neck. This swelling can be a result of blood leakage into the surrounding tissues or hematoma formation.
  • Hoarse voice: The TCA is located in proximity to structures involved in vocal cord function. Damage or bleeding in this area may lead to compression of the recurrent laryngeal nerve or other structures, potentially causing a hoarse voice.
  • Difficulty in breathing: Severe damage to the TCA, especially if associated with significant bleeding and swelling, can lead to compression of the airway. This compression may result in difficulty breathing, potentially requiring prompt medical intervention.
  • Physical compression of nearby structures: The TCA is situated in a region with various vital structures, including nerves, muscles, and other blood vessels. Damage to the artery can lead to physical compression of these neighboring structures, causing pain, dysfunction, or other complications.

Neck Conditions That Affect Transverse Cervical Artery

The following medical conditions can affect the TCA.

Vascular Diseases

Atherosclerosis is a condition characterized by the buildup of plaque within arteries, leading to narrowing and hardening of the vessel walls. If the TCA is affected by atherosclerosis, it may experience reduced blood flow, potentially impacting the supply to the trapezius muscle and other structures in the neck.

Neck Trauma

Severe trauma to the neck, such as from accidents, falls, or direct blows, can damage the TCA. This damage may result in bleeding, hematoma formation, or vascular compromise, leading to immediate symptoms and potential long-term consequences if not promptly addressed.

Cancer Metastasis

Metastasis of cancer to the neck region can involve infiltration of tumor cells into blood vessels, potentially affecting the TCA. Tumor growth in this area may compromise blood flow, leading to ischemia and other complications. Additionally, cancer-related vascular changes can impact the artery’s function.

Radiation Therapy Injury

In cases where the neck has undergone radiation therapy, the TCA may be susceptible to radiation-induced vascular damage. This can result in changes to the vessel walls, reducing blood flow, and increasing the risk of long-term complications, such as atherosclerosis or fibrosis.


An aneurysm is the abnormal ballooning of a blood vessel, while a pseudoaneurysm is a collection of blood outside a vessel wall. If an aneurysm or pseudoaneurysm develops in the TCA, it poses a risk of rupture, leading to significant bleeding and potential compression of nearby structures.

Aneurysms can be caused by various factors, including trauma, vascular diseases, or congenital conditions.

When to Call Your Doctor

If you experience unusual or persistent pain in the neck, it is essential to pay attention to this symptom and seek medical attention. While not an exhaustive list, the following scenarios may warrant a call to your doctor:

  • Sudden and severe pain: If you experience a sudden and severe onset of neck pain, especially if it is accompanied by other symptoms like difficulty breathing or swallowing, it may indicate a medical emergency.
  • Trauma or injury: Following any trauma or injury to the neck, such as a fall or accident, it’s crucial to consult a doctor, especially if you experience pain, swelling, or changes in function.
  • Radiating pain or numbness: If neck pain is accompanied by radiating pain, numbness, or tingling that extends into the arms or other parts of the body, it could be a sign of nerve compression or other issues that require medical attention.
  • Persistent pain: Persistent or recurrent neck pain that doesn’t improve with rest or over-the-counter medications should be evaluated by a healthcare professional to identify the underlying cause.
  • Pain associated with other symptoms: If neck pain is accompanied by other concerning symptoms such as dizziness, difficulty swallowing, hoarseness, or vision changes, it may indicate a more complex issue that requires medical assessment.
  • History of cancer or recent radiation therapy: Individuals with a history of cancer or recent radiation therapy to the neck should promptly report any new or worsening pain, as it may be indicative of cancer recurrence or radiation-related complications.
  • Signs of vascular issues: Symptoms such as pulsatile neck pain, swelling, or discoloration may suggest vascular issues. If you notice any of these signs, contacting your doctor is important for a thorough evaluation.

How Diagnosis Works

The following techniques are used for assessing conditions affecting the TCA:

Non-invasive Angiography

Non-invasive angiography methods are imaging techniques that allow healthcare professionals to visualize the blood vessels, including the TCA, without the need for invasive procedures. Some of them are listed below:

  • Magnetic resonance angiography (MRA): MRA uses magnetic fields and radio waves to create detailed images of blood vessels. It is particularly useful for assessing the blood flow in the neck and identifying any abnormalities or blockages in the TCA.
  • Computed tomography angiography (CTA): CTA involves taking detailed X-ray images of blood vessels. A contrast dye is usually injected into the bloodstream to enhance the visibility of the vessels. CTA provides high-resolution images, helping in the diagnosis of conditions affecting the TCA, such as aneurysms, stenosis, or other vascular abnormalities.
  • Doppler ultrasound: Doppler ultrasound uses sound waves to create images of blood flow. It can assess the blood flow through the TCA and identify any disruptions, such as clots or narrowing of the vessel.

Invasive Angiography

Invasive angiography involves the use of a catheter to inject a contrast dye directly into the blood vessels, providing real-time X-ray images. While more invasive, this method offers high precision and is often used for detailed evaluation and intervention. One of them is described below:

  • Digital subtraction angiography (DSA): DSA is a type of invasive angiography that captures X-ray images before and after the injection of a contrast dye. The “subtracting” of pre-contrast images helps highlight the blood vessels, allowing for detailed assessment of the TCA and detection of abnormalities.

Why These Diagnostic Methods Are Used

These diagnostic methods are used for several reasons:

  • Identification of structural abnormalities: Both non-invasive and invasive angiography methods help identify structural abnormalities in the TCA, such as aneurysms, stenosis, or blockages.
  • Assessment of blood flow: These diagnostic tools assess blood flow through the TCA, providing valuable information about the vessel’s function and potential complications.
  • Guidance for intervention: Invasive angiography, especially digital subtraction angiography, not only aids in diagnosis but also provides real-time imaging for interventional procedures, such as angioplasty or stent placement, if needed.

How To Better Your Blood Vessels’ Condition

Maintaining the health of your blood vessels is crucial for overall cardiovascular well-being. Here are some tips to promote healthy blood vessels:

Healthy Eating

  • Balanced diet: Consume a well-balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats. This provides essential nutrients and antioxidants that support vascular health.
  • Limit processed foods: Reduce intake of processed and high-sugar foods, as they can contribute to inflammation and negatively impact blood vessel function

Blood Pressure Control

  • Monitor regularly: Keep track of your blood pressure regularly and work with your healthcare provider to maintain it within a healthy range.
  • Low-sodium diet: Reduce sodium intake by choosing low-sodium alternatives and minimizing the use of added salt in cooking.

Weight Management

  • Maintain a healthy weight: Aim for a healthy body weight through a combination of regular physical activity and a balanced diet.
  • Lose excess weight: If overweight, even modest weight loss can significantly improve vascular health and reduce the risk of cardiovascular issues.

Regular Exercise

  • Aerobic exercise: Try to engage in regular aerobic exercises like running, jogging, walking, or swimming. Aim for at least thirty minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week.
  • Strength training: Include strength training exercises to enhance muscle tone and support overall cardiovascular health.

Smoking Cessation

  • Quit smoking: If you smoke, quit. Smoking is a major risk factor for vascular diseases, and quitting can have immediate and long-term benefits for your blood vessels.

Moderate Alcohol Consumption

  • Limit intake: If you consume alcohol, do so in moderation. For most adults, this means up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men.

Adequate Hydration

  • Drink Water: Stay well-hydrated by drinking plenty of water. Proper hydration supports overall cardiovascular health and helps maintain optimal blood viscosity.

Manage Stress

  • Relaxation techniques: Incorporate stress management techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, yoga, or mindfulness to help lower stress levels.

Regular Health Check-Ups

  • Regular medical exams: Schedule regular check-ups with your healthcare provider to monitor your overall health, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels, and assess your risk factors for vascular diseases.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

  • Include fatty fish: Incorporate omega-3 fatty acids into your diet by consuming fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, or trout. Omega-3s have been shown to support cardiovascular health.

Limit Trans Fats and Saturated Fats

  • Choose healthy fats: Limit intake of trans fats and saturated fats found in fried foods, processed snacks, and certain oils. Opt for healthier fat sources like olive oil and avocados.

Adequate Sleep

  • Prioritize sleep: Ensure you get adequate quality sleep each night, as insufficient sleep can contribute to vascular issues.

Healthy Blood Vessels Lead to Good Heart Health

In conclusion, maintaining healthy blood vessels is integral to ensuring good heart health. By adopting a lifestyle that includes a balanced diet, regular exercise, weight management, smoking cessation, and other positive habits, you can significantly contribute to the well-being of your cardiovascular system.

Healthy blood vessels support optimal blood flow, reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases, and contribute to an overall healthier heart.

By choosing the Centeno-Schultz Clinic, you are opting for a team of experienced professionals dedicated to providing personalized care tailored to your specific needs. Our approach combines the latest advancements in regenerative medicine with a thorough understanding of cardiovascular health, ensuring that you receive comprehensive and effective treatment options.

If you’re experiencing pain or discomfort in your back and neck muscles, we can help you on your journey towards back and neck health.